According to reports from Politico, the U.S. House Oversight Committee has launched an investigation into whether the Obama administration, in its attempts to gain support for the 2015 nuclear deal, may have undermined an ambitious U.S. counter-proliferation effort to thwart Iranian weapons trafficking networks.
Thirteen Republican senators have demanded answers about whether the Obama administration jeopardized U.S. national security as a result of its protracted top-secret negotiations with Tehran. There is also concern that the American public was misled when the terms of the two deals were disclosed in January 2016.
According to a report by Josh Meyer from Politico, the Obama administration may have, through actions in some cases and inaction in others, significantly hampered a federal law enforcement effort known as the National Counterproliferation Initiative at a time when it appeared to be making major headway in thwarting Iran’s proliferation activities.
According to State News Agency ISNA, Iran’s Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi was quoted as saying, “Intelligence Ministry did the negotiation of prisoners’ exchange and consequently that sum of one billion seven hundred and ten million dollars was recuperated, some of the prisoners were released, and sanctions on a bank and a number of institutions were lifted.”
Later on, these actions turned out to be the subject of some heated quarrels between the Ministry of Intelligence and the Intelligence Organization of the IRGC, with each one claiming that the release of money and prisoners were due to their own efforts.
According to Alavi, the ministry under his leadership should be credited with providing timely information and warnings on the country’s diplomacy had created a crucial platform for a “healthy international relationship”.
During the deal’s rollout, President Obama and other key administration officials downplayed the threat posed by Iranian traffickers that they were freeing as part of the swap that also freed five Americans that were being held in Iran. They referred to them as civilians involved in mere sanctions-related offenses but not charged with terrorism or any violent offenses.
Yet according to Politico reports, many of the men had been accused or convicted of charges stemming from their alleged involvement in clandestine networks supplying Iran with parts and technology for its weapons, ballistic missile and nuclear programs. Many of them had been characterized as threats to national security by the Obama Justice Department.
Part of the House investigation includes a request to the Attorney General Jeff Sessions to produce an exhaustive volume of Justice Department documents would “help the Committee in better understanding these issues.” A similar request has been sent to the State Department and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
It is clear that the Trump administration feels no need to cover for the Obama administration. Therefore, the two requests are likely to be complied with, despite the fact that some individuals will not want to produce these documents for the investigation.
The letter sent to both of these departments also asks whether the 21 men whose cases were dropped were “still engaging in illicit activities on behalf of the Iranian government.” It also asks for additional information about whether any investigations and prosecutions were derailed by the Obama administration, along with information about other “counter-proliferation activities” that are currently being pursued to combat Iran’s attempts to illicitly procure goods that have been sanctioned.
Still, there is a question about what the Trump administration is prepared to do about the 2015 nuclear deal, beyond talking about it negatively in the press.